Q: HOW IS FIREWOOD MEASURED? HOW TO TELL IF YOUR WOOD IS DRY? WHAT’S THE BEST KIND OF FIREWOOD?
A: Firewood is measured by the cord – not by weight. A bush cord measures 4’x4’x8’ – that’s four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long. Imagine three parallel rows of firewood cut in eighteen-inch lengths, stretching along for eight feet and standing four feet high. Often dealers will sell you a “face cord” which is one third of a bush cord. When stacked, a face cord should measure 1½’ wide by 4’ high by 8’ long. Three face cords equal one bush cord.
Wood should be cut at least six months prior to burning, otherwise your stovepipes or chimneys will become clogged with creosote. Look for cracks radiating from the centre of the logs, loose bark and dull colour that give an indication wood is well seasoned.
What is the best burning firewood? Hardwoods are the best because they burn more efficiently than softwoods. Firewood cut from softwood conifers (trees with needles) is less dense than hardwood, so it burns more quickly. Most area dealers sell “mixed” hardwoods – a combination of beech, maple, oak, hickory, ash or birch. Hickory, maple and oak are considered the best burning hardwoods. Poplar and black cherry are the least efficient burning hardwoods. Local fruit stands often sell apple or pear logs, which produce beautifully coloured dancing flames in your woodstove or fireplace.
Now is the time to be ordering wood for next year. Prices for a full bush cord of seasoned hardwood range between $300 and $450 delivered, but not stacked. Often wood is sold by the load. A ½ ton truck can usually handle a face cord of wood.
When you receive your load of wood, stack it a few inches above the moist ground. Moist conditions encourage decay and deterioration. Consider some sort of roof over your woodpile to shield it from the rain and snow. A woodshed close to the house is the ultimate luxury. There’s nothing worse than trying to pry out logs from a frozen woodpile on a cold winter night.
One last suggestion from an old Farmer’s Almanac… When piling wood in a stack, the pieces should be placed far enough apart to let a mouse run through, but close enough to stop a cat from running after it.
Watershed Asks the Advice of John Napes